The product selected for attempted purchase was Omega 3 oil. This health supplement is a very popular product on the internet. A simple Google search will yield millions of hits for this product alone. This product is usually available in capsule form and at times as a liquid. The packaging of the product varies based on the company that is retailing the product. The average product that is available varies from containers containing a thirty-day supply to those with a ninety-day supply. Omega 3 fish oils are considered to have near miraculous properties as it relates to the improvement of heart disease and the reduction of cholesterol.
Three websites were examined, the sites were compared and contrasted based on the following seven criteria, load time, graphics, user friendliness, easy of shopping experience, safety guarantees, content, and level of sales pressure (Mandel, & Johnson, 2002). Of the seven, the most important are the easy of shopping and the safety guarantees, as it is very important that your credit information be kept safe when making online purchases. If this information falls into the wrong hands, you can easily have your identity stolen or have illegal purchases made with your credit card.
The sites chosen for exploration were Costco.com, Amazon.com, and Omegaxl.com. The first two sites are large retail networks. Costco also has actual physical retail outlet while Amazon does not. Amazon however is a major internet player in the cyber retail industry and is considered by many as an industry leader. The size of Amazon means that they are often able to provide customers with discounts and bargains that are not available at in store locations. Costco and Amazon have many other products available for sale and this influences the information that is provided on the page with the Omega 3, as there are direct attempts to link the product being purchased to other similar products or with the purchases made by individuals purchasing a similar product. The Omegaxl.com site is dedicated to the sale of this single product and devotes all of its content to attempts to sell the customer on the value of the product. This singleness of purpose was both useful and wasteful. It was useful in the sense that as a customer you get a lot of information about one product. However, the absence of competing information made you think that you may be being hustled by the company.
In general, the sites chosen for the shopping experience were easy to find and they loaded with little difficulty. I am using a DSL connection so that made it easier. I however believe that if I were using a dial up connection I would be able to observe greater disparity between the sites as it relates to load times since one of the sites contained video and high definition graphics. While these elements are “nice,” they have a negative impact on persons who use dial up connection. The bandwidth requirements makes it difficult for the persons on dial up connection to enjoy the shopping experience since they may experience inordinately long wait times during the loading phase. The sites were filled with eye candy and attractive features. On the sites there were clear attempts made to convince the buyer that their transaction would be secure. This was accomplished with the use of the better business logo or the VeriSign logo. The shopping experiences while comparable had important differences, which will be noted late on in this assessment.
The first site visited was the Omegaxl.com site. Visually the site was not stunning but reasonably pleasing. The layout was simple and there was little confusion as to what they were marketing. There was an offer of buy one and get one free, as this site is dedicated to the sale of the Omega 3 fish oil. The product was endorsed by Terry Bradshaw and features a video of Terry Bradshaw extolling the virtues of the product. The fact that Mr. Bradshaw is prepared to place his name on this product is supposed to give confidence to the shopper. The site loaded marginally slower than the other two sites because of the video on the site.
The graphics on the site were sharp and vivid. The color features of the site however were somewhat limited as the site used a very bland palette of blues and darks with a few pastels. There were also appropriately placed buttons to connect the individual to Facebook or Twitter and other social media. Missing from the home page of the site is any real information about the product or even its cost. To access this information the user is required to select other links. I think that this limited the shopping experience and made it unnecessarily difficult. One of the first things you are concerned about is the price of the item, which should be easily available.
This site is a hard sell site and the placement of information seems to be designed to keep the customer on the site as long as possible, thereby increasing the possibility that they will purchase something. There is also the complete absence of any information on other similar products or price comparisons. The order now button was highly visible and accessible but this was offset by the fact that there was limited assurance that your credit information was secure. It was reassuring to observe however links for FAQs and to contact the company if necessary. The shopping experience was too protracted and too much pressure-selling taking place.
The second site examined was Amazon.com. This is obviously a successful and professionally developed website. The page loaded very quickly and easily. The product could be searched for from the database. It was found under health and personal care. The color of the product on display was bright and attractive. The price was easily visible. Testimonials from users were present along with a rating system that gave the product a customer-based rating. This approach to rating is a very good idea. Unlike the previous site where there was no way to estimate the effectiveness of the product Amazon has found a way to let users rate the product and comment so that other users can make a more informed decision. I consider this approach to be more useful than simply providing product information. When done well you are hearing from users like yourself and they are persons who have no stake in the company selling the product. Unlike a paid endorser, they are only interested in raving or complaining about a product based on what their experience has been.
I would rate the Amazon site high on user friendliness and easy of shopping. All that the shopper needs to make an informed decision is on one page, the price, other reviews, and similar products. You are able without leaving the page to make comparisons with other products and this is a very useful experience and strength of Amazon (Filson 2004). Additionally, there is information on delivery options and there is a note on whether the product is in stock or if you have to wait for it. These are fantastic elements because you would not want to be expecting a product only to later find out that it is out of stock and you have to wait weeks to get it, while they have your money.
The final element that is impressive about the Amazon is that you also have a buy it now button or you can add to shopping cart. If you are registered with Amazon, you are able to login to your account and the buy it now button becomes active. This feature makes check out as easy as possible because with one click you can purchase the item. This saves you the trouble of going through pages of filling in data before you can make your purchase. If there is one critique of the site it may be that, there is too much information. Because I did not observe the video testimonials for a while since you had to scroll down quite a bit before you could see them. Additionally, the Facebook and Twitter sharing buttons are much smaller than on the first site so that you could almost miss them. This however is compensated for by all the other beneficial feature of the site that made shopping easy and hassle free.
The final site, Costco.com, is very similar to Amazon.com. They offer similar products and have price comparison features. The Costco site has a very quick load time and the graphics are eye catching and attractive. Costco however, is very strong on product information and not as strong on testimonials or ratings of the products. The Costco site provided multiple options for purchase from many different manufacturers. There was a section for their featured products whose prices are usually lower than other products on the page; these are the brands that they are advocating you purchase (Brynjolfsson & Smith 2000). This is possible designed to encourage brand loyalty (Danaher, Wilson, & Davis 2003). Besides that, the Costco site is very much like the Omegaxl site in that any additional information is provided through clicking a link; this is unlike Amazon where all the information is presented on the same page. Costco provides no immediate facility at the primary page for checkout or purchase. Hence, to do so requires that you select the item and them you are given checkout or purchasing options.
The shopping experience on the Costco site is the dullest of the three some may say it is the simplest. While the user experience is not bad it is arduous, as you have to make one click too many to access the information you really want. The absence of testimonials or product reviews on the main page is a letdown and the site could do more to provide product reviews, which assist in decision making. When shopping online, product reviews and testimonials are extremely important because you are not physically able to touch the product, and must depend on the largely inaccurate graphical representation provided by the seller.
The Amazon site was chosen as the site to purchase the product. I first added the product to my shopping cart. I was then asked if I was ready to checkout or wanted to continue my shopping experience. I checked out. At this point, I was invited to supply personal information and credit information. This section allowed me to also start a new account if I so desired. I continued the process up until actual payment. The ease of online shopping was incredible. One of the best features is the ability to select the shipping time and mechanism. These elements give more control to the shopper and you get what you want when you want. The Amazon experience was delightful and throughout the entire process, I felt that the information I provided was safe and would be used properly.
There are some critical differences between this online experience and the in store experience. The most telling is that of the lack of physical contact with the item being purchased. When you purchase an item in a store, you are able to examine it for quality and for appropriateness in terms of what you are looking for. The online purchase has no such tactile element. The determination of the quality and hence suitability and durability of the item is completely based on the reviews experts and the testimonials of prior customers. Where this is absent the shopping experience is limited. It increases the possibility that you can purchase a product and be complete dissatisfied with your purchase.
The other element absent from the online experience is the interface with an actual human. In store shopping if you do not understand or you can’t find something you can ask a human. This social experience is useful and at time frustrating. The interaction with other humans allows us to develop and hone our social skills. You can also make new friends at the checkout counter as you meet other people checking out. The in store shopping has a social dimension that is complete absent from the online experience.
The online experience shines in two areas. The first area is the ease of checkout. There are no line and no waiting. If you are able to upload your information easily, you would generally have no problem. For the individual who does not like to wait in lines then the online shopping provides a quick and easy escape from that drudgery. The second benefit is the access to easy comparison and product reviews. This translates into better value for money to the customer (Keeney, 1999 p.534). These elements deepen the shopping experience as you can acquire more information about a product before you buy. You are also able to compare that product to other similar products, this gives the consumer wider choice (Lal & Sarvary 1999, p. 486). This all take place instantly and without much difficulty. There are differences between the experiences but for those who are interested in avoiding lines and getting comprehensive information about a product before you purchase online is the way to go.
Brynjolfsson Erik & Smith Michael D. (2000). Frictionless Commerce? A Comparison of Internet and Conventional Retailers Management Science, 46(4):563-585
Danaher, P.J., Wilson, I.W., & Davis, R.A. (2003). A Comparison of Online and Offline
Consumer Brand Loyalty Source: Marketing Science, 22.(4): 461-476.
Filson, D. (2004). The Impact of E-Commerce Strategies on Firm Value: Lessons
Amazon.com and Its Early Competitors Journal of Business, 77: 2: 135-154.
Keeney, Ralph L. (1999). The Value of Internet Commerce to the Customer. Management Science, 45(4): 533-542.
Lal, Rajiv & Sarvary, Miklos (1999). When and how is the Internet Likely to Decrease Price
Competition? Marketing Science, 18 (4):485-503.
Mandel, N. & Johnson, E.J. (2002).When Web Pages Influence Choice: Effects of Visual
Primes on Experts and Novices. The Journal of Consumer Research 29 (2):235-245.
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